A class act: Master of Teaching graduate nominated for national teaching award

10 October 2013

Master of Teaching (Secondary) graduate Matthew McDonald has been nominated for a National Excellence in Teaching Award (NEiTA).

An English and History teacher at St Leonard’s College in Brighton, Mr McDonald is passionate about his chosen profession.

“It comes down to teaching being a fun and creative job,” he said. “Yes, it’s stressful and tiring at times, but when you’re enjoying your job you don’t mind. When things click it’s incredibly rewarding - a lot of the time I’m learning from my kids, rather than them learning from me.”

Mr McDonald originally intended to become a lawyer. However, once he completed his Bachelor of Laws (Honours), he realised it wasn’t the profession for him.

“I definitely had a moment of ‘what am I going to do’,” he said. “I’d done the clerkships and the placements and I saw what my life would become if I pursued law. I value creativity and it’s important to me that I’ve made a positive impact at the end of the working day, so I decided to pursue teaching instead. I’m very happy with that choice.”

Mr McDonald is particularly proud of the work he has done with the debating program at St Leonard’s College.

“I was asked to become our debating coordinator at the beginning of this year,” he said. “We began with a big push to get the students involved, and we’ve gone from four to eighteen teams across various competitions. Our students have had great success, with all of our teams finishing in the top half of our region, two teams into the Victorian state finals and for the first time ever one of our College's teams has earned a place in the Victorian grand final. We even have a student who has qualified to represent Australia internationally at the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships. I’m very proud of them!”

His classroom work has been similarly successful, in particular his efforts in assisting his school to embrace iPads as part of a digital curriculum.

“I’ve digitised about 120 different resources so far,” he said. “Not only is it better for the environment, but it really enhances students’ learning. We can deliver information to suit individual learning styles, and students can learn from one another by sharing and commenting on each other’s work.”

Mr McDonald’s professional success has been underpinned by what he learnt during his time studying the Master of Teaching at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

“I think the best thing about the course was the fact that so much of what we did was deeply ingrained in classroom practice,” he said. “Looking back, the Master of Teaching provided me with many great practical tools, and my lecturers gave me some very valuable skills and insights that I have been able to take with me as I began my career here at St Leonard’s.

“What we did in university meant that thinking about matters like differentiating learning and lesson structures became second nature. It stood me in good stead for when I graduated.”

The State and Territory winners of the NEiTAs will be announced on October 25.